Kelvin Gastelum’s match-up with UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has been put on ice for now. The 185-pound titleholder is still on the mend from his UFC 225 defense on June 9.
Whittaker, who holds an overall record of 20-4 and a UFC mark of 10-3, topped Yoel Romero for a second time, winning by split decision. The champion suffered a broken right hand in the first round of the fight, as well as ligament damage in his left hand according to ESPN. The UFC 225 fight came on the heels of a unanimous-decision victory for Whittaker at UFC 213, where he also suffered ligament damage to his knee and was sidelined for almost a year.
Romero previously faced Luke Rockhold in what would have been an interim title fight for both men had Romero not weighed in at 187.7 pounds. The UFC 225 bout was also changed to a non-title contest after the Cuban fighter weighed in at 185.2 pounds.
Whittaker has already had surgery, but he expects to be out until February 2019 due to rehab.
“My whole goal is to let the bone mend and get my hand at 100 percent before I can start a rehab program,” Whittaker said. “Then I’ve got to strengthen it so that my body becomes 100 percent and I’m complete again. And then I would like to get a little bit of training in at that point.”
Meanwhile, the injured champion is still set to coach opposite Gastelum on the upcoming 28th season of The Ultimate Fighter, which will feature heavyweight men and featherweight women.
Gastelum is currently fourth in the UFC’s middleweight rankings. He is coming off back-to-back wins over former champion Michael Bisping and, most recently, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 224 in May. Gastelum also won TUF 17, whereas Whittaker did the same on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.